Modell Leistungsgesellschaft: the ‘Achieving Society’ and the concept of ‘Leistung’ in the Third Reich and the Federal Republic, 1933-1975
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This thesis analyses the uses of the concept of a Leistungsgesellschaft to explore the breaks and continuities in the transition from Third Reich to Federal Republic as well as within the post-war era. Between 1933 and 1975, the ‘achieving society’ and the concept of Leistung became ever more widely used and criticised. The individual in the National Socialist period was pressured to achieve in the name of a politically and racially defined commonweal, or risk exclusion from the national community. By contrast, the post-war period witnessed a shift as Ordoliberalism emphasised the individual opportunity a focus on performance in a competitive market generated. However, Ordoliberal theory had a limited impact on policy, also failing to overcome the tension between endorsing individual achievement and the developing welfare state. As part of an increasingly international debate, sociologists assessed how far the opportunities of the market actually extended and gauged the consequences of the Leistungsgesellschaft. These discussions show the active role of researchers in moulding a mental map of a highly advanced ‘West’. At the same time, a pattern that coheres with the model of the ‘long sixties’ is also present in these debates. The increasingly critical tone adopted by sociologists predated and prepared the way for the more radical ideas of the New Left. By the mid-1960s, activists and academics were highlighting the repressive emotional and psychological consequences of stressing achievement, prompting conservative efforts to defend Leistung. On the whole, a gendered line of exclusion and a trend towards Verwissenschaftlichung are the most striking continuities between 1933 and 1975. Racialized understandings of achievement are reframed in the context of debates about the ‘underdeveloped’ states. The thesis as a whole paints a picture of an increasing individualisation of Leistung as well as growing focus on the pressures and problems inherent in endorsing achievement.
AuthorsRenken, Lisa Victoria
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